St. Antony Ironworks
The first ironworks in the Ruhr was the St. Antony Ironworks in Osterfeld, now a part of Oberhausen. On 25th February 1741 Franz Ferdinand von Wenge, the canon of Münster was granted permission to extract bog iron ore in Vest Recklinghausen, a territory belonging to the archbishopric of Cologne. On the 13th July 1753 the Archbishop of Cologne approved the construction of an ironworks at Elpenbach in Osterfeld. After a construction period of 5 years, on the 18th October 1758 the first molten iron flowed out of the charcoal blast furnaces constructed here. The bog iron ore used here came from Vest Recklinghausen, the charcoal from the nearby forests. Cast iron products for daily use were made, items such as saucepans, weights or ovens.
The poor quality of the products as well as problems with the supply of ore and charcoal resulted in repeated periods where the blast furnace was out of operation. The first attempts in the Ruhr in the 1770s to produce iron with partly desulphurised mineral coal, carried out at St. Antony Ironworks, were unsuccessful. Specialists from other regions of Germany where iron had been successfully produced with charcoal powered blast furnaces for a long time were employed to run the ironworks. But the blast furnace only started to become profitable in the 1790s.
A number of new blast furnaces were constructed at St. Antony. In 1804 the Prussian Superintendent of Factories, Eversmann, described the St. Antony Ironworks as the only ironworks of note in the region. At this time the blast furnace was 6.90 m high. The bellows were driven by a water wheel 5.02 m high. Four men worked on the blast furnace (the works foreman, the under smelter and two feeders). The process also required: eight sand moulders, four assistants, plate moulders, nine clay moulders, 16 ore diggers, 32 charcoal burners and wood collectors, two assistances, four day-labourers, making a total of 80 people. In 1802 the campaign produced 602,593 pounds of cast iron goods. At this time the region's first domed oven went into operation; which meant that iron could be re-smelted.
Geometrical site plan of the Bockemüle and oak meadows, surveyed in 1793 by GW Strack senior. The oldest site plan showing the St. Antony Ironworks.
(Reproduction: LVR - Industry Museum)
Drawing of the site of the St. Antony Ironworks, by director of construction Lehmann, 18th November 1800 (Reproduction: Arnsberg regional council)
Friedrich August Alexander Eversmann: overview of iron and steel production at waterworks in the counties between Lahn and Lippe, Dortmund, 1804, title page
(Repro: LVR - Industry Museum)
St. Antony's Ironworks ceased to operate in 1820. When a paper factory on the same site failed to make a profit, another blast furnace went into operation in 1827. Raw iron was smelted at the ironworks until 1843. The blast oven was renovated numerous times. From 1844 until 1877 a foundry also operated on the site. A lack of infrastructure, economic recession and new technologies meant that the St. Antony Ironworks was no longer profitable. Yet the cradle of the Ruhr area had been in operation for almost 120 years.
Casting at the casting house St. Antony Ironworks, 1864, photograph by Gustav Herthing
(Reproduction LVR - Industry Museum)
Sketch of the blast furnace at St. Antony Ironworks 1812/13 from the scetch book of Gottlob Jakobi (Reproduction Rhineland-Westfalia economic archive at Cologne)